The Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic caused diplomatic dissatisfaction with Ukraine with a statement apparently meant as a joke. Matovic had said in a radio interview that Russia could have part of western Ukraine as payment for deliveries of the Sputnik V corona vaccine.
Previously, Matovic single-handedly ordered two million doses of the Russian vaccine, although the European Medicines Agency (Ema) has not yet approved it. On Monday evening, according to the »Süddeutsche Zeitung«, Matovic already received a first delivery.
When asked in the radio interview what he had offered Russia in return for the vaccine, according to the Reuters news agency, Matovic jokingly said: “The Carpathian Ukraine.” The historical region in western Ukraine borders on Slovakia and Hungary.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister spoke up
In Ukraine, which is still facing a military conflict after the illegal occupation of Crimea, this was not well received. This is what the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Twitter his regret at Matovic’s remarks.
In front of journalists in Kiev, Kuleba went further. Steps would have been taken if Slovakia had not apologized, said the minister. “And despite all the friendship with our Slovak colleagues, our reaction to such actions would not have been just harsh, but extremely harsh,” said Kuleba.
Matovic also rowed back on Twitter. “Slovakia’s position on the territorial integrity of Ukraine has always been very clear,” wrote the Prime Minister. International law must be respected, he said with reference to the illegal annexation of Crimea. “Apologies to all Ukrainians for my inappropriate reaction, which could undermine their legitimate efforts.”